Investing in the Next Generation of  Conservation Leadership 

Ian Owens

Executive Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology works with an increasing number of partners and communities around the world, I am always excited when our building is abuzz with visitors and different languages. It’s one more sign our science-to-action work is growing its footprint and responding to global declines in bird populations. 

When the Coastal Solutions Fellows are in town, I am downright inspired. In my 25 years working in science and conservation, I have never met a group of young professionals who can match the 30 Fellows (and counting) in their energy, enthusiasm, and out-of-the-box thinking. 

And when these Fellows come together in Sapsucker Woods, I am reminded of what makes this program so powerful and effective. 

The Coastal Solutions Fellows Program embodies our understanding that the best solutions call for interdisciplinary approaches. These Fellows represent the brightest young scholarly minds from Latin America in a multitude of fields—ornithology, biology, architecture, engineering, land-use planning, sociology, and more. This broad array of expertise supports problem-solving that is as much about people as nature, that balances economic opportunities and realities with conservation goals. 

The program also represents Cornell Lab’s abiding commitment to Latin America and the Pacific Flyway. Since 2019, these Fellows have conserved species and collaborated with communities in dozens of coastal priority sites in nine different countries.

Here, you will find proof that to be impactful, on-the-ground conservation work must always be community led. Every Fellow has forged capacity-building partnerships with one or more local communities—including ethnic and indigenous groups—who support novel thinking and take on stewardship roles. 

In this way, our Fellows add to the existing foundation of bird monitoring and technology that make the Cornell Lab’s mission a global enterprise.

I invite you to listen to our Fellows’ voices and hear their compelling narratives in the pages that follow. When you see the imprint Coastal Solutions Fellows Program makes on the world and, equally, on the trajectory of their professional lives, you will understand that supporting future cohorts of Fellows means creating change not only for the length of a project, but over the course of a career. 

Just as I look forward to the return of the Fellows to Ithaca, I also envision a future where the Cornell Lab is a home away from home for many more international conservation leaders working in partnership with us and with their own local communities. Please join us in this vision for a more sustainable future.

With gratitude, Ian Owens 

Coastal Solutions Fellowship Program

The Coastal Solutions Fellows Program builds and supports an international community to design and implement solutions that address coastal challenges across the Pacific Americas Flyway. Our main goal is to conserve coastal habitats and shorebird populations by building the knowledge, resources, and skills of Latin American professionals, and by fostering collaborations among multiple disciplines and sectors.